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The Bullet Vanishes - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Xiao shi de zi dan

China, Hong Kong 2012

Crime, Action

Law Chi-Leung

Lau Ching-Wan
Nicholas Tse
Mini Yang
Jing Boran
Wu Gang
Liu Kai-Chi
Yumiko Cheng Hei-Yi
Zi Yi
Gao Hu
Jiang Yiyan

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The Bullet Vanishes

Story: Song Donglu (Lau Ching-Wan) works as a prison guard and displays his investigative skills by constantly proving the innocence of prisoners. Eventually, the police peek an interest in him and promote him to a detective. His first case is a murder at an ammunition factory which is supervised by ruthless Ding (Liu Kai-chi). Song's partner is the experienced and extremely determined Guo Zhui (Nicholas Tse), who also happens to be the fastest gunman in town. Also lending a helping hand is inexperienced Xiaowu (Jing Boran). The investigators find out that the workers of the factory believe the ghost of the deceased girl Yan to seek revenge for her death. Yan has been accused to have stolen ammunition and factory supervisor Ding took matters into his own hands and played a round of Russian roulette with her. Now Song and Guo try to provide evidence that the factory supervisor committed a murder since this could also uncover the crucial clues to who took revenge in Yan's name. Furthermore, more than just one body starts to turn up...

Review: "The Bullet Vanishes" is a surprisingly effective and smart action thriller with an extremely appealing atmosphere and a nice setting. Even though the film plays in Shanghai there is no denying that - particularly concerning the setting and at times the look as well - the director took a page out of Guy Ritchie's book and his work "Sherlock Holmes". The relationship between the two protagonists turns out to head into a completely different direction, though, and especially lead actors Lau Ching-Wan and Nicholas Tse succeed in giving their characters the strongly needed quirks that can enrich a movie. Still, the action thriller also remains unusually reserved when it comes to emotionally captivating the viewer. For this there may be reasons which the last twist reveals, but it still doesn't help the movie.

The Bullet Vanishes - Film Screenshot 11

First of all, the somewhat dark atmosphere of Shanghai during the 1930s needs to be praised, more precisely the ammunition factory as a backdrop. Especially the lighting and the eye for details are instantly captivating. And the filmmakers also didn't cut back on violence. There maybe isn't a lot of blood involved, but to watch Guo Zhui give someone a headshot point-blank during a shoot-out isn't for the faint of heart and leaves no doubt that we at least partly get a Hong Kong movie here. This wouldn't have been possible in a Hollywood flick, that's for sure. However, the movie isn't gritty at heart. This is avoided thanks to a delightful soundtrack and Song Donglu who every now and then is responsible for an amusing moment. Apart from that the chemistry between the two protagonists is just about right, although as already stated you sometimes miss some emotional scenes.

The Bullet Vanishes - Film Screenshot 12

Guo Zhui has an interesting personality. He is so determined and unyielding in his righteousness that he oftentimes comes across as a policeman, judge and executioner in one person. To relate to such a character is difficult, but a small love story as well as his relationship with Song make him more human in the end. Nicholas Tse ("Shaolin", "Dragon Tiger Gate") manages to give a role the strongly needed weight, which because of its emotional aloofness easily could have taken a backseat. Lau Ching-Wan is a bit odd, but likeable at all times, not really simply in the way of Sherlock Holmes, even though parallels are evident, but also like in "Mad Detective". That the chemistry between the two protagonists hits the mark is one of the reasons why "The Bullet Vanishes" works so well.

The detective story is also well told. We tag along with the detectives puzzlying over how the different pieces are supposed to fit together and also marvel at the deductive skills of the protagonists. Every now and then there are also a few flashbacks made use of for certain explanations and oftentimes we find ourselves in an autopsy hall shining in bright white which stands in strong contrast to the dark factory. The plot is very smart and the mystery around the invisible bullet is resolved in a pretty nifty way. The well scattered revelations and twists manage to keep up the suspense level as do the constantly remaining inconsistencies in the case. In fact, you could have asked for more character development, but actually that's already sophisticated whining.

The Bullet Vanishes - Film Screenshot 13

Director Law Chi-Leung manages to match the success of his earlier works like "Double Tap" and this also in respect to the action scenes which are very well done and thanks to the different sets also bring the necessary variety into the movie. The polished pictures, the lavish special effects and the sets all add up to a fantastical overall product rich in atmosphere. Thus, it's easy to forgive that one scene in which an explosion stands in the foreground is apparently boldly taken out of the aforementioned "Sherlock Holmes". Taking into account everything that "The Bullet Vanishes" does right it is in fact odd that not a single scene can actually touch us emotionally. Nonetheless, there are unusual twists and particularly the last one can prove that the filmmakers didn't shy away from delivering something different. An action thriller that really turns out to be a nice surprise.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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